By the midsixties, Ingmar Bergman had already conjured many of the cinema’s most unforgettable images. But with the radical Persona, this supreme artist attained new levels of visual poetry. In the first of a series of legendary performances for Bergman, Liv Ullmann plays a stage actor who has inexplicably gone mute; an equally mesmerizing Bibi Andersson is the garrulous young nurse caring for her in a remote island cottage. While isolated together there, the women perform a mysterious spiritual and emotional transference that would prove to be one of cinema’s most influential creations. Acted with astonishing nuance and shot in stark contrast and soft light by the great Sven Nykvist, Persona is a penetrating, dreamlike work of profound psychological depth.
With his lush and sensual visuals, pitch-perfect soundtracks, and soulful romanticism, Wong Kar Wai has established himself as one of the defining auteurs of contemporary cinema.
“No one sees anything. Ever. They watch, but they don’t understand.” So observes Connie Nielsen in Olivier Assayas’s hallucinatory, globe-spanning Demonlover, a postmodern neonoir thriller and media critique in which nothing—not even the film itself—is what it appears to be.
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An intoxicating, time-bending experience bathed in the golden glow of oil lamps and wreathed in an opium haze, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s gorgeous period reverie traces the romantic intrigue, jealousies, and tensions swirling around a late 19th century Shanghai brothel, where the courtesans live confined to a gilded cage, ensconced in opulent splendor yet forced to work to buy back their freedom.